CENTRAL PARK — The Central Park Conservancy will start taking New York City's official snowfall measurements for the National Weather Service this winter — a job that had belonged to the Central Park Zoo since 1993.
The zoo could no longer fulfill the role due to administrative reasons, so the national weather organization turned to the conservancy, according to Tim Morrin, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service.
The responsibility is a big one.
The conservancy's measurements are used by the weather service to decide whether to issue, cancel or allow an advisory to expire. If more snow is accumulating than forecasted, the New York City Office of Emergency Management may coordinate with city agencies to adjust their response to a storm, according to the conservancy.
The information gathered by the conservancy would also be considered the city's official snowfall measurement that gets released to the public.
"We are absolutely ready to take this on ... we’re proud to assume this responsibility as part of our care of Central Park," said Doug Blonsky, the president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy.
"We were the logical choice, because measuring the snowfall has to be done in person, and Central Park Conservancy workers are in the park every day."
Over the fall, 20 staff members of the conservancy, including gardeners and maintenance technicians, were trained to accurately take measurements of snowfall using special rulers that the National Weather Service calls "snow measuring sabers," Morrin said.
"All the ducks are in a row and the enthusiasm that we were met with from the folks at the conservancy was amazing," he said. "They are feeling good about it so now we want to get them some work."
Forecasters at the National Weather Service aren't seeing any signs of snow for the next seven to 10 days, but a cold polar air mass from Canada could be heading toward the city in the new year, Morrin said.
When snow does land, the Conservancy, which was founded in 1980 to help take care of the park, will take measurements directly behind its 79th Street yard office because the National Weather Service deemed it secure and open enough.
During a storm, a handful of Conservancy staff will go out every six hours to take multiple measurements, Morrin said. The information is then called in to the weather service, logged online and released to the public, Morrin explained.
Central Park has one of the longest, contiguous sets of weather data in the country, which started as a military endeavor at the Arsenal building at Fifth Avenue in 1869, Morrin said. In the 20th century, the U.S. Weather Bureau, which eventually became the National Weather Service, took over the job.
When the organization automated much of its service in 1993 and moved to Upton, Long Island, it collaborated with the Central Park Zoo to take over measuring snowfall since the job still needed to be done by hand, Morrin said.
The zoo did not immediately return a call for comment.